Tourism Joint ventures: Our Pride and Joy

Conservation is key to tourism

You’ve decided to travel to one of Namibia’s spectacular destinations? What do you look for when determining where to stay? Tourism

Joint-venture tourism is one of the country’s pride and joys. A system that does not only support communal conservancies but one that has created some of the most remarkable lodges set in the most extraordinary locations. Communal conservancies constitute over 20% of Namibia’s surface area, from the waterways of the Zambezi to the rugged landscapes of the northwest and the deserts in the south.

Communal conservancies are home to a large portion of the country’s population. One in four rural Namibians live in these areas. Conservancies have very little infrastructure and most residents practise subsistence farming. It goes without saying that these communities are not rich and living side by side with wildlife further diminishes their worldly wealth; even more so, when a lion catches a goat or an elephant destroys crops. Yet, these communities are committed to living with wild animals for the greater good of conservation as well as the benefit gained from joint-venture partnerships with private sector companies. Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) also profits from these ventures as concession fees fund the ministry’s efforts to protect the vulnerable wildlife.

Staying at one of these world-class, joint-venture tourism establishments contributes directly to conservation and community development. The contractual agreements between communities and private businesses give the operators rights to utilise a particular area, for which they bring in funding and expertise. The partnerships are not just another way to exploit the custodians of the land, however. The joint-venture system conservation-based economies and by developing lodges in remote areas provides training, employment and opportunities to community members. In return, communities have a vested interest to protect the landscapes and the free-roaming wildlife that attracts loads of tourists to these exceptional, wild areas.

The years of hard work by conservancy members have increased wildlife numbers and expansion of the range in which the animals can safely graze, browse and hunt. Thanks to these efforts Namibia boasts the largest free-roaming population of endangered black rhino in the world as well as growing populations of elephant, lion, leopard, giraffe and other species. The income generated from tourism has also allowed people to remain in these areas instead of moving to the cities in search of employment. This also prevents the disappearance of valuable traditional knowledge passed on for generations and thus preserves unique cultures.

Is there a more rewarding guest experience than staying at a lodge that directly contributes to the welfare of the surrounding community? Joint-venture partnerships assist with education, nutrition and health care, culture heritage and conservation initiatives backed by the community. Furthermore, the system provides funding for anti-poaching units to monitor and protect the rare and endangered species of these unfenced wilderness areas. Joint-venture partners proactively and reactively respond to human-wildlife conflict, while funds generated through these ventures allow conservancies to give compensation to farmers who lost crops or livestock to wildlife.

At the beginning of 2020 there were 56 joint-venture lodges located in exceptional locations next to or inside protected areas or national parks, such as Bwabwata, Etosha, Nkasa Rupara, Palmwag and the Skeleton Coast. There are 21 joint-venture and community campsites, 12 living museums as well as craft and indigenous product development enterprises. Joint-venture partnerships before the closure of borders due to Covid-19 employed over 1 300 full and part-time employees.

Responsible travel is not just something sold to overseas tourists to make them feel better about the large carbon footprint they create when flying to Namibia, but rather something that every traveller should be mindful of, even if it is travelling in your own backyard.

For more information on community conservation and where to stay visit www.conservationtourism.com.na

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